CHESTER, Pa. — Two years ago around this time, Andre Blake left for the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup in a tough spot. He was recovering from a pair of knee surgeries and struggling to secure a starting spot for both the Philadelphia Union and the Jamaican national team.
It is fair to say that is no longer a problem.
On Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium, a day before joining his Jamaica teammates for this year’s Gold Cup, Blake recorded his second straight shutout while leading the Union to a key 3-0 win over the New England Revolution.
“It’s always great to get a win and it’s always great to get a shutout,” Blake told MLSsoccer.com. “That’s such a confidence booster for the club.”
It’s also a confidence booster for Blake, who is in tremendous form heading into the Gold Cup. A week after stopping a penalty kick and making a marvelous win-preserving save in stoppage time of a 1-0 victory over D.C. United, Blake came through with a huge stop on Kei Kamara in the 13th minute en route to posting a career-high seventh clean sheet of the season.
“It was a turnover and I just tried to get a read on it,” Blake said. “I saw [a pass being played to Kamara] so I just had to get out and make myself big and hopefully see if I can get a piece of it. And that’s what happened.
“As a goalkeeper, you need to have the confidence of your teammates whenever you’re called upon to make one or two big saves. It’s a great feeling to know things are finally starting to go the way we all want them to go. And hopefully they can keep going.”
Blake is confident that the Union, winners of two straight, will keep moving up the table in his absence while backup John McCarthy takes over in net. But leaving the group at this point of the season still won’t be easy.
“Even though I’m going to see my countrymen, it’s always tough,” Blake said. “They’re almost like my brothers away from home. So any time I have to leave I do miss them. And it’s always great when I get to come back.”
When Blake returns to Philly, he hopes it will be after another big Jamaica run. Two years ago, the Reggae Boyz made it all the way to the Gold Cup final, and Blake believes just as much success is possible this time around — especially if he can play the way he’s been playing.
“It’s great for me to be healthy going in,” Blake said. “I watched all those games from the bench two years ago. I’m definitely looking forward to it now. And hopefully I can carry over everything I’ve been doing here and continue to be successful.”